The wonder of Wellworths

Dorset Echo: Wellworths store manager Claire Robertson outside the shop in South Street, Dorchester Buy this photo Wellworths store manager Claire Robertson outside the shop in South Street, Dorchester

FORMER Woolworths Saturday girl Claire Robertson is re-opening the Dorchester store as... Wellworths.

The new store will sell many of the lines that the Woolies branch stocked before the chain store favourite closed down at Christmas.

And many of the former staff will be returning to the South Street shop including former manager Claire, who had her first job with Woolworths as a Saturday girl.

She said: “We’re going to open in mid-March and we can’t wait. We know a lot of our customers will be back and new ones. And it’s good news for the town because this is a prime site and nobody wanted to see it empty.”

A consortium including the store’s Irish owner is backing the new team.

Ms Robertson said Wellworths would have a familiar feel about it for Woolies customers who will recognise many of the staff who lost their jobs when the High Street chain folded.

All 26 staff lost their jobs when Woolworths closed but around 20 will be back to work for Wellworths.

She said: “I’ve kept in contact with all the staff since then and some have found new jobs.

“But it will be wonderful to have so many back together again. Most of the colleagues will slot back in here.

“They are a fantastic team and all eager to get going.

“This is like a dream come true for me. Before Woolworths closed I sent my CV and a business plan to the owner and he formed a consortium to set up Wellworths.

“I started working for Woolworths as a Saturday girl in Yeovil when I was 15 and I came to Dorchester as trainee assistant manager in 1994. Dorchester was always a profitable branch and when it was closing I came up with a business plan to have a shop selling all those things that sell well here.

“I thought then that there had to be a chance of doing something in this store – I couldn’t ask for a better location.

“When it closed it was very sad. All the staff had wanted to keep it nice right up to the end but it was heart-breaking. You almost didn’t believe it was going to happen – we kept hoping right up the end that someone would come in and buy it and keep it going.”

She said customers would find many lines they would expect to see in Woolies such as kitchenware, DIY, confectionery, toys, party goods and seasonal lines including Easter eggs. They also plan to enlarge on successful lines such as picture frames.

But they don’t plan to stock CDs, DVDs or children’s clothing.

Ms Robertson said: “We’re going to be running very much the same kind of family store as Woolworths – only even better. We’ll be able to be more flexible on what we stock.”

Former Dorchester Woolworths assistant manager Terri Edwards of Weymouth is among those heading the Wellworths team. Daniel Roy of Portland will be joining the team as in-store buyer.

Ms Robertson said: “I’m sure we are the only ones doing something like this in a former Woolworths store. It’s really exciting.”

Comments (13)

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10:23am Wed 11 Feb 09

maximus says...

What about a similar operation in Weymouth or maybe ASDA George?
What about a similar operation in Weymouth or maybe ASDA George? maximus
  • Score: 0

10:50am Wed 11 Feb 09

I Don't Like The New Echo Website says...

I really, really hope that this works. The optimist hopes that it will, but the realist in me says it won't. To employ 20 staff, pay the rent, the business rates and the associated bills will cost a fortune. Also, a store of this size will need a huge amount of stock to fill the shelves- not all of this stock will sell, so will affect the cash flow significantly. Hopefully, the consortium behind this proposal will have deep pockets, as the first 12 months of trading will be difficult. The decision not to sell DVD's is a wise move, with the popularity of downloads etc, but I question the wisdom of not selling childrens clothing, particularly with Adams having shut. There will be a greater level of demand for childrens clothing in Dorchester than picture frames (which Claire seems to think will be popular) and it is beacuse of ideas such as stocking picture frames and not childrens clothes that could contribute to their downfall. As I said, I hope that it works, but maybe the strategy behind it needs to be better. I guess these things may be learnt in time.
I really, really hope that this works. The optimist hopes that it will, but the realist in me says it won't. To employ 20 staff, pay the rent, the business rates and the associated bills will cost a fortune. Also, a store of this size will need a huge amount of stock to fill the shelves- not all of this stock will sell, so will affect the cash flow significantly. Hopefully, the consortium behind this proposal will have deep pockets, as the first 12 months of trading will be difficult. The decision not to sell DVD's is a wise move, with the popularity of downloads etc, but I question the wisdom of not selling childrens clothing, particularly with Adams having shut. There will be a greater level of demand for childrens clothing in Dorchester than picture frames (which Claire seems to think will be popular) and it is beacuse of ideas such as stocking picture frames and not childrens clothes that could contribute to their downfall. As I said, I hope that it works, but maybe the strategy behind it needs to be better. I guess these things may be learnt in time. I Don't Like The New Echo Website
  • Score: 0

12:26pm Wed 11 Feb 09

Ask Archie says...

maximus wrote:
What about a similar operation in Weymouth or maybe ASDA George?
Maximus,you really should try and remember the OHEC stories.There has been talk of George going into the old woolies store already.I just hope the Wellworths plan works.Good luck.I have a feeling you will need it.
[quote][p][bold]maximus[/bold] wrote: What about a similar operation in Weymouth or maybe ASDA George?[/p][/quote]Maximus,you really should try and remember the OHEC stories.There has been talk of George going into the old woolies store already.I just hope the Wellworths plan works.Good luck.I have a feeling you will need it. Ask Archie
  • Score: 0

5:51pm Wed 11 Feb 09

CoogarUK says...

I agree the consortium will need deep pockets. Further, with not one decent retailer of DVDs & CDs in Dorchester I believe the decision to not sell these is a mistake and I foresee a U-turn.

Best wishes for your venture though, Claire!
I agree the consortium will need deep pockets. Further, with not one decent retailer of DVDs & CDs in Dorchester I believe the decision to not sell these is a mistake and I foresee a U-turn. Best wishes for your venture though, Claire! CoogarUK
  • Score: 0

7:24pm Wed 11 Feb 09

dopey says...

I think Wellworths should stick to making piston rings at Ferry Bridge, although picture frames should sell like hot cakes in the county town..we all need loads of 'em.
Hope they stock loads of green wellies, jodhpurs and horse whips.
I think Wellworths should stick to making piston rings at Ferry Bridge, although picture frames should sell like hot cakes in the county town..we all need loads of 'em. Hope they stock loads of green wellies, jodhpurs and horse whips. dopey
  • Score: 0

9:31pm Wed 11 Feb 09

spangler says...

Sell an idea or a lifestyle, even if the associated product is complete crap. Most of the successful high street store do.
Sell an idea or a lifestyle, even if the associated product is complete crap. Most of the successful high street store do. spangler
  • Score: 0

10:19pm Wed 11 Feb 09

dorset & proud says...

CoogarUK wrote:
I agree the consortium will need deep pockets. Further, with not one decent retailer of DVDs & CDs in Dorchester I believe the decision to not sell these is a mistake and I foresee a U-turn.

Best wishes for your venture though, Claire!
I agree it's a shame they won't be selling DVDs etc, however I wish "wellies" and it's staff the very best of luck.
[quote][p][bold]CoogarUK[/bold] wrote: I agree the consortium will need deep pockets. Further, with not one decent retailer of DVDs & CDs in Dorchester I believe the decision to not sell these is a mistake and I foresee a U-turn. Best wishes for your venture though, Claire![/p][/quote]I agree it's a shame they won't be selling DVDs etc, however I wish "wellies" and it's staff the very best of luck. dorset & proud
  • Score: 0

12:01pm Thu 12 Feb 09

Ask Archie says...

dopey wrote:
I think Wellworths should stick to making piston rings at Ferry Bridge, although picture frames should sell like hot cakes in the county town..we all need loads of 'em. Hope they stock loads of green wellies, jodhpurs and horse whips.
Dopey is the request for riding equipment to satisfy a little fetish of your? If so try SCATS in Dorchester I think they will cater for your needs.
[quote][p][bold]dopey[/bold] wrote: I think Wellworths should stick to making piston rings at Ferry Bridge, although picture frames should sell like hot cakes in the county town..we all need loads of 'em. Hope they stock loads of green wellies, jodhpurs and horse whips.[/p][/quote]Dopey is the request for riding equipment to satisfy a little fetish of your? If so try SCATS in Dorchester I think they will cater for your needs. Ask Archie
  • Score: 0

12:28pm Thu 12 Feb 09

pd7 says...

Good Luck ! , I hope you include a Pick A Mix counter
Good Luck ! , I hope you include a Pick A Mix counter pd7
  • Score: 0

12:30pm Thu 12 Feb 09

kmatt says...

Good luck Claire... Maybe choosing a fresh new name could have been an idea, this is your venture not Woolworths!! Go for it...
Good luck Claire... Maybe choosing a fresh new name could have been an idea, this is your venture not Woolworths!! Go for it... kmatt
  • Score: 0

3:07pm Thu 12 Feb 09

dunketh says...

Dont bother with the random DIY and kitchen stuff, this was woolies donwfall - no specialisation.
Just turn the whole place into one massive pick and mix store.
The novelty alone will bring folk from far around.
I can see the headlines now - 'Europes biggest pick n mix'.
It'd be a mecca for those who remember white mice and have a sweet tooth.
Dont bother with the random DIY and kitchen stuff, this was woolies donwfall - no specialisation. Just turn the whole place into one massive pick and mix store. The novelty alone will bring folk from far around. I can see the headlines now - 'Europes biggest pick n mix'. It'd be a mecca for those who remember white mice and have a sweet tooth. dunketh
  • Score: 0

6:47pm Thu 12 Feb 09

free wessex says...

Good luck with it! We could do with the same here in Bridport but then I suppose the Town Council will object..Lidl err umm!
Good luck with it! We could do with the same here in Bridport but then I suppose the Town Council will object..Lidl err umm! free wessex
  • Score: 0

7:03pm Thu 12 Feb 09

karon says...

I wish you all the luck in the world.I come from Stoke-on-Trent, but have been in the former Woolies in Dorchester whilst on holiday (having a 10 year old son, means that we have visited most ex Woolies stores in the country, in search of holiday money treats!).Please continue to stock your pocket money type toys - Hot Wheels cars etc.
Go for it Claire!!!
I wish you all the luck in the world.I come from Stoke-on-Trent, but have been in the former Woolies in Dorchester whilst on holiday (having a 10 year old son, means that we have visited most ex Woolies stores in the country, in search of holiday money treats!).Please continue to stock your pocket money type toys - Hot Wheels cars etc. Go for it Claire!!! karon
  • Score: 0
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